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Security

This video game teaches Girl Scouts about online safety

Earn a badge in cybersecurity.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Staying safe online isn't a game. Unless you're a Girl Scout.

Cyber Squad, a new video game, is designed to help Junior Girl Scouts learn about cybersecurity, privacy and dealing with online bullies. The game, a project of technology giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is available to troop members in the greater Washington, DC area starting on Thursday.

The game's purpose is to get kids interested in online safety at an age when many are getting their first phones and social media accounts, said Liz Joyce, HPE's chief information security officer. Junior Girl Scouts are between the ages of 9 and 11.

The No. 1 goal was fun because "that makes it lot more memorable, a lot more exciting," said Joyce, who spearheaded the game project.

Cyber Squad is part of a broader effort to get girls interested in careers in STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Women make up a small portion of the global cybersecurity workforce -- only 11 percent by one measurement -- an industry that will have an estimated 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021. 

The game isn't the first effort to get Girl Scouts, and girls in general, interested in cybersecurity. The Girl Scouts of the USA partners with Raytheon, a company that provides cybersecurity expertise to the US government, to teach troop members the fundamentals of cybersecurity. The SANS Institute, a national cybersecurity training company, runs an all-girl hacking event called Girls Go Cyber Start in partnership with state governments.

Advocates say it's important to build an interest in cybersecurity in all demographics so that everyone who can help fight hacking attacks gets the training and encouragement they need.

To create the Cyber Squad game, a team from HPE built a curriculum and worked with Romero Games, the studio behind Doom and Dungeons & Dragons, to turn it into a web-based game. Girl Scouts Nation's Capital, an umbrella group for thousands of troops in the DC area, is rolling out the game, along with the chance to earn a badge, to its members.

A still from the Cyber Squad video game showing a girl sitting on her bed and reading a message on her phone screen, with two possible responses available.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

To play the game, girls will go through different story lines, each of which was written by 17-year-old Maezza Romero, the daughter of Romero Games executives Brenda and John Romero. The scenarios are designed to teach girls skills that Joyce's team wanted to emphasize, like limiting the amount of personal information a girl makes available online and responding to cyberbullying. Each scenario shows the positive and negative consequences that can come from different online behavior.

Joyce took the curriculum developed by her team and showed it to her daughter's class. She said the kids absorbed the lessons and came up with their own ways of explaining cybersecurity to their friends.

The experience gave Joyce the opportunity to serve as a role model to the girls, which she said was rewarding. What's more, it came with an added perk.

"It was also the first time that my daughter's friends thought that I was cool," Joyce said.

Correction, Jan. 25 at 11:30 a.m.: Fixes description of Joyce showing the curriculum to her daughter's class. Also clarifies the size of Girl Scouts Nation's Capitol.

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